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 Why North America?  

Vegan Outreach occasionally hears from members who suggest we branch out to other countries. For example, several people recently pointed out that the number of (land) animals slaughtered for food in China is now comparable to the numbers in the U.S., and that demand for meat there is growing. Some have recommended that Vegan Outreach go to China, in order to get the most 'bang for the buck.'

When determining how and where to spend our extremely limited time and resources, we must return to our underlying principle: Vegan Outreach exists to reduce as much suffering as possible. To this end, we promote dietary change as discussed in "A Meaningful Life." We focus our efforts in North America for the following reasons:

  1. In the U.S., nearly all "food" animals are factory-farmed.
  2. Per-capita animal consumption is much higher in the U.S. Although the number of animals slaughtered in China rivals that of the U.S., since there are over four times as many people in China, per-capita animal consumption is lower in China. (For details, see http://www.fas.usda.gov/psdonline/psdHome.aspx and http://faostat.fao.org/). Vegan Outreach's work is based on individual outreach, and every new vegetarian in the U.S. saves more animals.
  3. The marginal cost per new vegetarian (and thus per animal saved) is smallest here Vegan Outreach doesn't have to research, develop, or design a new booklet, and we're able to have our per-piece printing cost at a minimum, given our current numbers. We don't have to build a distribution system, find new employees and volunteers, set up a new group, etc. -- our physical location is important in terms of booklet research, development, printing, shipping, etc. The marginal cost is important as long as Vegan Outreach hasn't saturated North America (which is very far from the case).
  4. Vegetarian and vegan diets are relatively common in the U.S., relatively easy, and often "cool" among certain groups.
  5. This is our culture and we can speak to it, get feedback from it, and refine our message accordingly (e.g., what influences people, what people's concerns are, what people need, etc.). It is also the language we speak. None of us have any experience in China, speak any of the languages (Mandarin, Cantonese, etc.), or even read any Chinese.
  6. We can honestly speak to the agricultural situation here. Even in other English-speaking countries (e.g. Great Britain, South Africa, Australia), our booklets are only of limited use. Many people are quick to disregard information about animal cruelty if it does not describe the situation in their country. Also, few, if any, of the vegan products we offer as examples are available in other countries. (We have only one booklet with one page specific to Canada, and that is in English as well.)
  7. For better or worse, animal rights / ethical veganism is a cause more-or-less focused on the affluent. Despite the disparities in overall population, there are probably many more people in the U.S. in a financial situation to be able to make ethical dietary choices.
  8. In many ways, the U.S. sets the example for the world, so every new vegetarian here, in addition to saving more animals directly, also has the most global influence.
  9. Related to #8, as discussed here, animal liberation will come about when people can eat a vegan diet very similar to today's standard diet. The US (and Great Britain and several other European countries) will be the lead in developing cruelty-free meats (vegetarian and in meatro). Therefore, creating demand in the US is the key to our longterm goals.

In addition to the above, there are specific issues regarding the efficiency of activism in China utilizing the Vegan Outreach approach. Vegan Outreach's main mechanism for change is most people's inherent rejection of cruelty to animals. Since factory farms and industrial slaughterhouses are hidden in the U.S., many people are shocked when they find out the reality -- shocked enough to make a change to their diet. For people who are indifferent to the suffering of animals, however, we don't try to persuade them of "animal rights" or try to convince them of the consistency of a utilitarian philosophy. Rather, we focus on reaching more people for whom discovering the hidden realities of modern agribusiness will be motivation enough.

In China, however, cruelty to animals is often neither hidden nor shocking for many people. Live markets expose people to the realities of the meat they eat; thus, the Vegan Outreach approach would not be as effective.

Very important, too, are differences in the culture, and the political situation in China. Issues include a lack of a free speech tradition, crackdown on dissent (especially in preparation for the Olympics), opinions about the U.S., etc. It would be naive, at best, to think that the Vegan Outreach model could effectively translate directly to China.

This is not to say that there shouldn't be any advocacy in China related to food animals. Since factory farming isn't fully established in China, important efforts could be made at the structural level -- such as those pursued by institutions such as HSUS (for instance: http://tinyurl.com/yotnsm). Structural reforms are not something Vegan Outreach pursues; we don't even have a million dollar budget (Vegan Outreach's budget is less than one-half of one percent of HSUS's budget, with assets one-tenth of one percent of HSUS's).

It is possible, of course, that once Vegan Outreach is bigger, closer to being able to reach all the "low-hanging fruit" in North America, and with spare staffing capabilities, it would be worth revisiting the idea of the Vegan Outreach model in other countries. However, at this time, Vegan Outreach's scant resources must continue to go into what we have found to be most effective at reducing suffering. We haven't come close to reaching even half of all college students. Every year, millions of students graduate from college without ever having been shown the realties of factory farms and the compassionate vegetarian alternative. Many of these millions are lost forever to our efforts towards creating a new world.

Our goal is to have, as soon as possible, people leafleting in every part of North America, both on college campuses and at events. We want to make sure that no one graduates from college without being offered a Vegan Outreach booklet. We know Vegan Outreach's work in North America is creating new vegetarians and vegans every day -- literally changing the society we live in -- and the example our culture sets. That's with a budget much smaller than the animals need. There is still so much to do right here in the US. If VO could afford to reach 50% of all college students in the U.S. alone, we would profoundly impact the eating habits of the rest of the world. We are obligated to continue to work towards this, for the animals' sake.

Since we currently have so much work to do in North America, we realize that to reduce as much suffering as possible, Vegan Outreach must continue to focus on what has the greatest impact -- what we know and do best. We deeply appreciate everyone's support of and belief in Vegan Outreach's work.

-Matt Ball, Jon Camp, Anne Green, & Jack Norris

Vegan Outreach
P.O. Box 30865
Tucson, AZ 85751-0865

VO is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization; all donations are tax-deductible.